The following presents a new tale from James P. Davis—author of the recently released novel The Restless Shore:
The Mere-That-Was nurses the nightmare children of the Spellplague. Along the dry lake bed, monsters unlike anything in Toril haunt the landscape. From the depths of the wilds, an eerie hymm draws strange disciples to the lair of one plaguechanged child.
Its hypnotic song urges them to seek the key to completing the lullaby: a new voice.
A trio of strangers must trust each other as they chase the cult of the Choir -- and the girl they've taken -- through the wilds of Akanûl.
But all their fears are coming true.
THE NIGHTMARE'S JUST BEGUN
Seven They Were
"Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.
I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet."
--from "The Children’s Hour"
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
13th of Tarsakh, -947 DR
A flickering crimson light, the color of fiery blood filled the lower halls of Dun Tharos. Shadows, both mundane and many much less than ordinary, crawled across the stone of a grand meeting hall just outside the war-room of Thargaun Crell, ruler of Narfell and architect of the war that would soon unite all the Nar kingdoms under a single banner. As the door to the war-room opened, Serevan Crell, youngest of Thargaun's heirs, scowled and looked up from the large tome upon his lap to witness the triumphant entrance of his eldest brother, Derevan.
Kulthane, second in succession to the throne, followed dutifully in Derevan's footsteps. As the moon traces a path to reflect the light of the sun, so did Kulthane hope to shine in the light of his elder brother's glory. Mere sight of the pair sickened Serevan and he feigned interest in his reading, though he suspected he could not escape the brutish outburst to come as his brothers closed the war-room door and smiled cruelly as if conspirators sharing the secret of a delightful murder. It had been rumored that Thargaun would bestow upon Prince Derevan the honor of conquering Shandaular, a task Serevan suspected could be beyond his older brother's skills. They reclined in the softly cushioned chairs of the grand hall, close to the snapping crackle of the hall's fireplace.
"Shandaular will fall," Prince Derevan mused, staring off and likely envisioning himself upon the smoking battlements of the last remaining city to resist Thargaun's nearly complete empire, "And I shall have their wizard-king roasted on a spit for my victory feast."
"Roasted? Please reconsider, dear brother," Kulthane replied, a mocking smirk on his lips, "A wizard shall make a poor beast for the feast, better a stew or soup."
"Provided his body can be picked out from the ashes, of course," the older brother added with a grin and they both laughed, their booming voices causing Serevan's stomach to turn. He looked up from his reading and fixed them both with a withering stare.
"And what of Jastaath?" their youngest sibling asked, breaking into the monotonous rhythm of their laughter.
Prince Derevan appeared both confused and amused by the question.
"Jastaath has been defeated little brother," he replied with a raised eyebrow and a half-grin, "I do not think I shall concern myself with what is past—"
"Ah, yes," Serevan interrupted with a strained and knowing smile as he stood, collecting the large, red leather-bound tome of his studies and made to leave his brothers to their talk of war, "Defeated . . . and bearing no ill-will toward the nearness of your invading army at all, I'm sure they're beating swords and spears into farm-tools as we speak."
"No doubt you have the secret to victory hidden away little brother," Derevan said, leaning forward and clasping his large hands before him, "Perhaps in your nursery? The one you think none of us knows about?"
Kulthane barely stifled a laugh, seeming eager to hear Serevan's response to the jibe. A shadow, larger than the others and bearing ghostly white eyes crossed through the back of the room, beckoning to the Thargaun's youngest before disappearing deeper into the bowels of Dun Tharos.
Serevan Crell smiled mysteriously, nodding to his brothers as he followed the shadow demon into the crimson dark, his voice echoing long after he'd been lost to view.
Kainillian the Fair of Jastaath
Born to a commoner, a woman who died during child birth, Kainillian was the only child of Gaen Sarchus, High Priest-King of Jastaath. Raised on the temple grounds within the fortress of Jastaath, Kainillian showed little aptitude for the priesthood, much to the disappointment of his father, but seemed nonetheless within the favor of the demon prince Graz'zt. With bright blond hair that darkened as he aged and eyes of startling blue that changed over time to a brilliant green, he was a child adored, able to win the favor of his elders as dangerously as he wielded the daggers he trained with in lieu of priestly studies. At the age of ten he could get away with most anything he wanted, a maddening ability to his father, but one that proved a blessing in the doting eye of their demon prince . . . until the rise of Narfell.
Jastaath resisted Nentyarch Thargaun's armies for months, their mountain proving a formidable location to withstand the constant siege, but in the year of -948 DR, sensing annihilation in the face of Thargaun's ambition, Gaen surrendered.
Embittered by defeat, the Priest-King secretly authorized insurgents and assassins to undermine the rule of the Nentyarch and began to converse by messenger with the Mage-King Arkaius of Shandaular, still withstanding the first wave of emissaries from Dun Tharos. Caught up as he was in his secret war, Gaen did not guard well enough the safety of his blessed son.
Kainillian, brave, misguided, and still innocent as only a child could be, was drawn away from the fortress, guided by the sweet promises of the shadow-demon Zuraphael. The boy was convinced he could help in the fight, make his father proud, but the shadow demon took Kainillian away, to the dungeons of Dun Tharos. Hearing the news, Gaen was enraged, reading over a missive sent anonymously that demanded his compliance in return for his son's life. He would leave unharmed any warrior serving under Thargaun's youngest son and cease all contact with Shandaular.
Reluctantly the Priest-King agreed, leaving his son unknowingly to the whims of the Nar wizard Goorgian and the ambition of Serevan Crell.